The US Air Force’s (USAF) Block 3F variant of the F-35A and F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) have recently completed the last weapons delivery accuracy (WDA) surge, moving them closer towards achieving initial operating capability (IOC).
The fighter aircraft with Block 3F software is anticipated to undergo another single WDA event.
The planned event marks the completion of WDA for all three variants and will pave the way to the declaration of IOC for all F-35s.
During the recent WDA testing surge, an F-35 fired an AIM-120 advanced medium-range air-to-air missile (AMRAAM) over the Pacific Ocean range near Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS) Point Mugu in Ventura County, California, US.
Commenting on the WDA surge, USAF 461st Flight Test Squadron weapons integration engineer Torrey Given said: “This was kind of a clean-up, or a closeout, of System Development and Demonstration. It’s the closeout of JSF developmental test for Block 3F, which is a big deal because it’s for Air Force IOC and Navy IOC.
“We were able to accomplish some complex air-to-air demonstrations with the AMRAAM in order to show the full capability of the aircraft.”
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The AMRAAM missiles were equipped with live motors and guidance systems, but the warheads were exchanged for telemetry units, the USAF stated.
The Block 3F software upgrade for the F-35 fighter aircraft provides full combat capability, including but not limited to data link imagery, full weapons, and embedded training.
According to Lockheed Martin, F-35 software enables flight controls, radar functionality, communications, navigation and identification, electronic attack, sensor fusion, and weapons deployment.
Image: An F-35 fires an AIM-120 missile over the Pacific Ocean range near NAWS Point Mugu, Ventura County, California, US, during a recent WDA testing surge. Photo: courtesy of Chad Bellay/Lockheed Martin.